A First-Timer’s Guide to Portugal: Everything You Need to Know

Welcome to Portugal, a country of rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Portugal has something for everyone. As your trusted travel agency with over 100 years of combined experience, we’re here to guide you through the must-see sights for your first visit to this beautiful country.

Lisbon: The Heartbeat of Portugal

You will start your adventure in Lisbon, the capital city that perfectly blends traditional heritage with modernity. Wander through the cobblestone streets of Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest district, and marvel at the beautiful tiled facades. We recommend starting with the Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site symbolizing Portugal’s maritime power in early modern Europe. The tower was built during the height of the Portuguese Renaissance and served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway into Lisbon. 

The best way to make the most out of your time in Lisbon is by taking a ride on the iconic Tram 28. You’ll experience the city aboard a quaint yellow tram as it travels through the narrow streets of the city. The Tram extends from Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique and passes along some of the city’s most notable neighborhoods. 

Porto: The City of Bridges and Wine

Next is a trip to Porto, famous for its port wine and stunning bridges. Porto invites exploration with its narrow, winding streets, colorful buildings, and rich history. Begin your journey in the Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the vibrant atmosphere, historic charm, and riverside views will captivate you.

One of Porto’s most iconic landmarks, the Dom Luís I Bridge, spans the Douro River with its impressive double-deck iron structure. Designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, this bridge is a testament to 19th-century engineering prowess. Walk along the upper deck for breathtaking panoramic views of Porto’s skyline, the winding river below, and the terracotta Vila Nova de Gaia rooftops on the opposite bank. 

Sintra: A Fairytale Town 

A short trip from Lisbon, Sintra is a magical town known for its palaces and gardens. Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, this enchanting destination offers a unique blend of history and fantasy. Often described as a fairytale town, Sintra’s lush landscapes, romantic architecture, and mysterious ambiance captivate visitors worldwide.

Perched atop a hill, the Pena Palace is a vibrant, romanticist palace that seems to be plucked straight out of a storybook. Its colorful facade, a mix of vivid yellows, reds, and blues, is a striking contrast to the surrounding greenery. The palace, a prime example of 19th-century Romanticism, is adorned with eclectic and whimsical architectural elements, including towers, turrets, and ornate stone carvings. As you wander through its lavish rooms and terraces, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of Sintra, the Atlantic Ocean, and beyond, inspiring a sense of wonder and awe. The surrounding Pena Park, with its exotic plants and hidden pathways, offers a serene escape into nature.

The Algarve: Sun, Sand, and Sea

For sun-seekers, the Algarve region in southern Portugal is a paradise of golden beaches, dramatic cliffs, and charming fishing villages. This stunning coastal area stretches along the Atlantic Ocean and is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, vibrant towns, and laid-back atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for lively beach resorts or serene, historic towns, the Algarve has something for everyone.

Lagos is a captivating town known for its stunning coastline and vibrant history. The dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters of Ponta da Piedade best exemplify the town’s natural beauty. This natural wonder offers spectacular rock formations, sea arches, and grottos that can be explored by boat, kayak, or on foot via scenic cliff-top trails. Nearby, Praia do Camilo is a picture-perfect beach with golden sands and turquoise waters, accessible by a wooden staircase that winds down the cliffs. In addition to its natural attractions, Lagos boasts a charming old town with cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and a bustling market. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Lagos Marina, where you can enjoy waterfront dining and boat tours.

Portugal is a country that captivates the hearts of its visitors. From its historic cities and stunning landscapes to its rich culture and warm hospitality, there’s something magical around every corner. Thomas Hogan Vacations specializes in elite travel. Our advisors provide professional, personalized trip planning with first-hand advice and valuable travel tips you won’t find in brochures or online travel sites. Please complete our online inquiry form or contact one of our agents to start packing for your getaway! 


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Thomas Hogan Vacations is the premier travel agency in Myrtle Beach with over 35 years in business, specializing in personalized travel experiences. Thomas Hogan offers travel destinations which includes a Spain & Portugal escapade, a cruise to Alaska, a Northern European cruise, a trip to Rome & Greek Isles, a Panama Canal Cruise, a cruise to the Southern Caribbean and a tour of Northern Italy. Custom vacation packages include roundtrip airfare, lodging & accommodations, dining, transportation and more. Thomas Hogan offers vacation packages for couples, groups or individual travel. Thomas Hogan Vacations is affiliated with Travel Leaders which gives us the best global travel contacts. Thomas Hogan's corporate office is located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.